HUNDREDS of people have lent their support to a petition against the closure of Lothian’s only mental health unit for elderly women with dementia.
Concerned relatives have vowed to fight NHS Lothian’s decision to relocate 15 patients from the Pentland Ward at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital next month, which they believe will damage the wellbeing of their loved ones.
The health board insists the move will benefit the elderly patients, who will be cared for in one of the Capital’s community facilities, such Ferryfield House and Findlay House.
But a petition against the decision has already attracted more than 240 signatures from as far afield as the United States, since it was set up on July 5.
Jacky McKinney, 51, is one of those leading the fight against the ward’s closure, which has been home to her elderly mother Ethel for nearly a year.
Ethel, 84, was diagnosed with dementia nine years ago, and she was cared for at home until her admission to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in 2013.
Jacky, of Whitson said: “We are keeping on pushing because we totally believe the decision the hospital has made is detrimental to the lives of our relatives.
“I fear for my mum’s future because of all this upheaval in what are really the last months and years of her life. I think she deserves better.
“It is not just for the here and now, it is a reduction in provision for the future. These are bed spaces that are being lost for women and there are not enough already anyway.”
The move is part of a ten-year plan for major redevelopment at the Morningside-based facility, which will include a new national brain injury unit.
It is understood that Pentland Ward will be used to house a neighbouring unit, which provides care for men with early onset dementia.
Changes to the delivery of care for people with dementia must be handled with the utmost delicacy, warned Amy Dalrymple, head of policy at Alzheimer Scotland.
She said: “Sensitivity, dialogue and cooperation with the people the person with dementia is close to, are required to enable any change to be safe and appropriate.
“If a major change is undertaken without these considerations, it can cause significant distress to the person with dementia.”
However she said that people with dementia who did not need to be in hospital should be cared for in the community.
Tim Montgomery, director of operations at Royal Edinburgh Hospital, said: “We understand that families will have concerns and that is why we have met with relatives to explain the reasons behind the move and to assure them that patient care is our most important priority.
“The clinical team on Pentland Ward has carried out an assessment, and believes the most appropriate environment for the patients is no longer on a psychiatric hospital site but in purpose-built care settings.”
NHS Lothian has promised to send nurses from the ward to the new facilities to ensure continuing stability for patients.